Last week we had a visit and a #BBL from Dr Jen Ross, University of Edinburgh, chatting all things evaluation and audience research and presenting her work on the Artcasting project – new approaches to evaluating visitor engagement with art. The underlying premise is that current evaluation methods may be a little stale and intrude on the museum experience, so why not embed the evaluation within the program itself?: ‘If a program is creative and participatory it doesn’t feel like evaluation’. The project drew on the work of Simons and McCormack (2007) who used creative art to capture and understand an evaluation story:
In a climate dominated by the language of targets, outcomes, outputs and delivery – using the creative arts can generate insight from different ways of knowing and bring us closer to capturing and understanding the evaluation’s story.
Among the key implications for practice from the project (as reported on the website), two that struck home to me were:
- the value of asking new questions and taking inventive approaches to research collaborations between academic and cultural heritage organisations; and
- the need for cultural heritage organisations to reflect on their evaluation agenda [considering] how evaluation practice can take better account of the value of dialogue
I’m about to run a workshop for the Shoalhaven City Arts Centre and Regional Gallery’s PD day, Know and Grow your audience, and I’ve been thinking lots about how to embed easy evaluation ideas into processes and programs, especially for small museums that may not have access to many resources.
Both this event and Jen’s talk have got me thinking and gathering creative ways to undertake evaluation and audience research, as shown in the photo gallery below, which include:
- Postcards answering a key question
- Unsolicited letters / feedback to the museum
- Drawing activities for children
- Workshops and posters answering a key question (in the image below are teenagers’ responses to a potential exhibition on evil…)
- Instagram and Twitter feedback / posts
- Social media for front-end evaluation (see Jensen and Kelly, 2009)
- Interesting small spaces in museums for visitors to provide feedback (#ROMBeta)
- Journals, mood boards, Post-it note feedback boards
- Our work with the Coalition of Knowledge Building Schools also generated a whole range of interesting evaluation ideas
And the list could go on…
I will be exploring these, as well as more traditional evaluation methods, at the workshop this week, so please shout if you’ve come across other interesting ideas we can use!
- Jensen, B. and Kelly, L. (2009). Exploring Social Media for Front-End Evaluation. Exhibitionist, Fall, 19-25.
- Kelly, L. (2015). Formative Evaluation #reboot. Blog post.
- Kelly, L. (2005). Evaluation, Research and Communities of Practice: Program Evaluation in Museums. Archival Science, 4(1-2), 45-69.
- Simons, H. and McCormack, B. (2007). Integrating arts-based inquiry in evaluation methodology: Opportunities and challenges. Qualitative Inquiry, 13 (2), 292-311.